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Understanding shut-down learners

Seven strategies to help your child climb from struggles to success.

By Dr. Richard Selznick

Throughout preschool and her early elementary grades, Emma was sunny, confident, and engaged in school. Now 12 and in sixth grade, her teacher’s comments paint a different picture: “Emma enters class pleasantly, and she seems to get along nicely with the other kids. During class, however, Emma never participates, and it seems that her mind is elsewhere. Emma’s work reflects a general lack of effort. It’s almost as if she doesn’t care.”

What happened to the sunny, confident, and engaged Emma?

Jacob, age 9, loves playing with Legos and other hands-on materials. Building elaborate cities and complex scenes, he is confident and very capable. In class, though, Jacob is unenthusiastic. An observer watching Jacob’s lack of connection and energy would probably think his light bulb was dim. Often he looks pained in class — particularly during open-ended writing assignments.

A recent sample of Jacob’s writing about a school experience offers insight into his in-class struggles: “One day in scool it started as and ordenary day but at resec we hade a safty meet and I got my posit (post) I got to raes the flag It was cool because every morning I hade to come to scool erly to raseis the flag and tack down the flag I was cool because I was incharg of the flag that is one thing that happond to me.”

While these children are quite different in style and personality, both manifest the signs of a shut-down learner. These signs typically start to emerge in the upper elementary grades and become much more pronounced by high school. They include:

  • A sense that the child is increasingly disconnected, discouraged, and unmotivated
  • Fundamental skill weaknesses with reading, writing, and spelling, leading to diminished self-esteem
  • Increased avoidance of school tasks such as homework
  • Dislike of reading
  • Hatred of writing
  • Little or no gratification from school
  • Increasing anger toward school

Understanding the formula of shut-down learners

Shut-down learners are children who become academically discouraged and disconnected from school over time. A simple formula helps explain how kids become shut-down learners: Cracks in the foundation + time + lack of understanding + strained family communication = shut-down learner.

Understanding this formula will help parents of children like Emma and Jacob be in a better position to take appropriate action.

Cracks in the foundation

Cracks in a child’s learning can usually be identified as early as preschool and kindergarten. Indicators during this period are easily identified: Does your child have trouble learning letter names and their sounds, for example? By first grade, is your child taking steps toward blending sounds? In middle to upper elementary school, is writing a laborious, often agonizing process for your son or daughter?

If the answer is yes to these questions, it does not necessarily follow that your child will become a shut-down learner. However, like cracks in your house that expand if unaddressed, it is important to act to prevent academic cracks from widening. Otherwise, they will contribute to discouragement over time and a child ultimately shutting down.

Lack of understanding

In my evaluation of shut-down learners, I have found that many receive work on a daily basis that they simply cannot handle, causing them unnecessary frustration. Too often, parents and teachers do not understand the skill deficits that are causing a child difficulty. For example, I recently tested a fourth-grader who struggled to read certain words presented in a text, including porcupine, passage, and amazement. Since most fourth-graders read silently to themselves, the student's teacher and parents mistakenly believed that she had a comprehension problem, when she was actually experiencing difficulties with word reading and decoding.
Additionally, many children who struggle in school simply do not have problems deemed to be “severe enough” to warrant special education. For those children, parents will need to seek outside remedial help in the form of tutoring, where available.

Strained family communication

The beginning of homework time often marks an increase in the household temperature, as screaming and arguing become part of the landscape. Strained communication around homework can be overwhelming for families and can contribute to a child becoming a shut-down learner.

Preventing shut-down learners

  1. Trust your gut: If you believe your child is experiencing difficulties at school, listen to yourself. Don’t wait or fall for such oft-used statements as “You know how boys are” or “She’ll grow out of it.” Act on your feelings even if your child has been deemed ineligible for school services. Consult a trustworthy, competent person outside of school whom you feel comfortable with to assess your child.
  2. Know what you are targeting: If your child’s assessment has identified issues of concern, chances are an area in your child’s reading needs addressing. There are essentially two types of reading problems: In the first, the child has trouble decoding words and reading fluently. In the second, the child can read fluently but experiences great difficulty understanding what he or she has read. Get clear on the exact issues you hope to resolve. Don’t scattershot remediation.
  3. Take the heat out of the interaction: Try to step back a little bit and turn down the heat in the house. The daily ritual of yelling, pecking, or nagging never leads to positive change. When was the last time your child said, “Thanks for yelling, Mom. I see your point. I’ll get down to business”? Right. Never. Why persist? Your kid is probably feeling overwhelmed by homework he or she can barely handle. In raising the heat, you’re simply adding stress to his or her life.
  4. Turn down the temperature: Kids need emotional fuel to tackle their school difficulties, especially those who derive little gratification from their efforts. Look for the small things that your child is doing well. Statements like "Wow, I like the way you took out your work tonight without my asking” can really mean a lot to a child, especially one who might be a bit discouraged.
  5. Find someone to connect with and mentor your child in school: The shut-down learners I know do not feel very good about themselves and do not see their true strengths. If your child is of middle school age or older (those preteen and teenage years when the development of a sense of self is critical), it is particularly important for him or her to have at least one person in school who really values him or her and will rally on your child’s behalf — even if he or she isn’t succeeding academically.
  6. Maintain a sense of equilibrium: Do something fun and enjoyable with your child. Play a board game or do an arts and crafts project together. Most kids would enjoy doing an activity like that with you. Try not to let school problems set the tone for the entire household and all of your interactions.
  7. Support your child: Academic discouragement is debilitating to children and families. Connecting with your child’s natural strengths and letting him or her know that you are both on the same team can make an enormous difference in preventing your child from becoming a shut-down learner.

Reprinted with permission 2010

Dr. Richard Selznick is a child psychologist and the director of the Cooper Learning Center, part of Cooper University Hospital's Department of Pediatrics, in New Jersey. He is the author of The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child.

Comments from readers

"Thank-you,,,,,finally it is being addressed. We have been to doctor, school, guidance teacher, teachers and therapist,,,,,and fighting for my son. He is not alone, and we need to help these kids now, and make sure every school understands the severity of this problem. "
"I have to be honest. As a student now an adult in my 50's school was horrible for me. Why, becuase many years later in life I learned that I was a gifted visual spatial learner. My question to parents, are do you know exactly how your child thinks, and process information? Most do not, and even worst nor do their educators. These children are being mislabed, misunderstood, and not taught to their strenghts but weakness. If you have a child in any school in the 21st century, and their teacher isn't familiar with this type of learning transfer your child to school that does! It is a fact that the one size fits all doesn't work. More importantly the sooner your child is matched with his or her learning style defined as (left or right side dominate) that exist within the child's brain you are setting your child up for failure. It's a life time of self doubt, embarrissement., Educators who are not trained to teach these children will have great difficulty educating these childre! n. Is it a learning disablity no! but they process information in pictures not in words. However; I will be honest in most cases attention deficit issues are also present. Becuase these children world consists of pictures not words, most teachers confuse showing a visual image as a teaching tool not understanding the broader scope of this child thinking, and how they process information will not produce the desired results. These children desparately need someone who can actually see what they are seeing, and simply not go thru the motions. These children are highly intutive, and know that you do not understand them. . So to parents of these gift children you can expect a life filled with frustration, and for the child him or herself I life of feeling misunderstood, embarrissed, and often leading to depression. Note to educators it is imperative that these issues are addressed in early childhood, and education. But if it is not the situation is not hopeless, but you as t! he teacher needs to be trained to see what the child sees ment! ally. You have to teach to their strenghts, and not weaknesses that's your job as an educator. What is beneficial is have someone who is quite knowledgable to perhaps provide training for parents, and educators. I can provide you with actual visual pictures that appears in the child head. Why? becuase after many years of psychologist, psychiatrist, and neurologist I came to the conclusion that their methods do not address the larger picture unless you understand it enough to ask the correct questions. I would be more than happy to assist any parent or educators in addressing these issues. It's not ok for our children to suffer unecessarily becuase the right questions, or methods were never implemented. I will be starting a 2012 informative series titled: " How to recognize, teach, and communicate with Visual Spatial Learners" I will also demostrate how a visual spatial learner ( child or adult) actually visualizes stimuli. Please let me know if you are interested. "
"This description of shut-down learner fits my daughter exactly- this is the first time I have seen a name for it. She is extremely bright and logical but is pained by reading and writing of any kind. We have been trying for years to determine the "problem" and how to address it with her teachers, and have recently seen great success. Here are some things that have worked: Medication for anxiety suggested by her family councilor - worked immediately with tantrums and reactions to what what needed to be done allowing her to get to work and take pride in her success without me going nuts just to get her started. Teacher allowing reduced number of problems to be completed so she was not overwhelmed before she started as long as she understood the work. Seating in class with fewer distractions but not separate from peers - facing away from main group and next to friends she wasn't as interested in talking with. Daily planner filled in with all assignments - she loves to check thi! ngs off. We guess how long each assignment will take and write on top of page then try to beat the clock. She is more willing to do work if she can "teach" it to her stuffed animal or doll. Even in 5th grade she loves immediate rewards like stickers and stamps for problems completed. She works with a tutor 2 days a week who makes a tic mark when she delays and a tick mark for success, enough good marks earns her funny drawings by the tutor in a journal. This gives her a simple, fun reward and a short break at the same time. It also takes pressure off me to be the task master everyday. To keep her moving through work, she says out loud "Finished, Next" after each problem to help stay on task. She would otherwise like to talk about a million interesting things in between each problem. Cursive writing is much better than printing, I think because she cannot pause and get distracted between letters. Seriously! Reading and spelling are still difficult. I read a page and she read! s a page which is fun for her. She also likes to bounce a ball! while I read and she follows along. We have simple readers that we time to go as fast as possible to increase fluency. To study for spelling tests - variety and hands on/movement works for her. Letters on post-its with a different color for vowels lets her assemble the words on the wall and then see the patterns. jumping jacks, or ball bouncing for each letter as she says them out loud etc. We started making a chart for long term projects where she can mark off small tasks each day they are completed. This breaks down into manageable parts and she can instantly see her progress toward the end while being given permission to not do more work each day. I still have to work side by side most of the time, but am seeing gradual independence. The fights have really calmed down and she is having much more time for the fun stuff kids need. Her favorite treat is a game of any sort if we have time left over. Now work that used to take 3-4 hours is getting done in 1/2 hour and I'm n! ot shouting "Just do it, it's easy for you!" She is actually starting to enjoy school again and not start each morning with "I have a stomach ache". Finally some progress. I was beginning to dread middle school for her and now am actually hopeful that she will enjoy it. "
"First the teacher should be understanding ,kind,and help the child as he spends more time with teachers in school.Second parents should be with the child while doing the homework without loosing their temper as its their support he needs at home.Making the child read loudly at home half an hour daily will help him a lot.He will overcome his fear,self esteem will improve,which will further help him to build his self confidence. Whenever the child come across difficult words and reads ,he should be praised as that would make him feel happy and less nervous. "
"My grandson is 20. He has an IQ of 131 and was failing in school. We were lucky, I own my own business and he finished 9-12 grades as a home schooler, in my office. I saw to it he did what he needed to do to graduate. Not finishing, failing, high school, was not an option for him. Starting out life with one fail against you is not a promising future. My granddaughter also home schooled, but her mother did not work. Do what ever you need to, just get them through this first hurdle. Life will give them enough problems, don't let them start off with a failure attitude. "
"I am so glad this issue is getting attention. These are great suggestions for parents to implement into their own character to assist without aggravating a struggling student’s behavior. I have tried everything, and while I truly believe in the taking responsibility for oneself and the path they choose, I must concede that my son had a teacher who destroyed him. He has never been the same since her and any teacher that reflects the same type of character he crawls up into himself hoping to avoid further humiliation . My son,16,would fall into the demoralized learners category. Here’s why: Up until 6th grade, I was able to maintain a system with my son that ensured his getting his homework done, his understanding of materials, and him reading out loud to me for at least 30 minutes daily. In order for me to be able to achieve this, there was an open communication with all of his teachers. This was especially important since he suffered from petit mal seizures (in the brain only so the child appears as if they are daydreaming, ‘zoning out’) Auditory Processing Disorder, and ADHD. As long as the teacher was compassionate and patient with him not always hearing spoken instructions or getting completely lost if there was excessive noise - or gently bringing him back from a seizure where he couldn’t remember what the last thing he was doing was or what he was supposed to be doing, then he was alright. He’d take pride in himself for even trying. He worked so hard! Then he got a teacher who was completely obvious in her dislike for any child who was not naturally bright needing no additional attention or help. If my son would ask her to repeat an instruction her answer would be “You should have been paying attention the first time� -- she refused, even after numerous requests, to either give my son easier to understand instructions, or to email ME with the assignment instructions, so that I could help him. More and more my son started to lie and say he didn’t have homework. Instead of calling me, advising me how bad things were getting (he wasn’t really talking about it since our previous efforts with the principal had failed since they were close friends) she was sending him to the office to sit all day long, including lunch and recess. No one bothered to tell me. He’d apparently from what I found out later, cry, beg, plead not to be sent to the office. He would ask to please call me , he’d say “I think I need my mom� ! and that awful woman told him that I wasn’t going to do anything to help him - that I knew (??) he was punished in the office. Since he thought I knew and I wasn’t helping him, he just grew distant from me and refused to speak of anything that had to do with school. I later found out from parents of his classmates that even they were bothered by how mean she was to my son since they were going home and telling about the things she’d say. She would single him out to confess his lack of homework, to announce his test scores then compare him with the highest score, telling him he was “a lost cause� and trying to get him to learn or do anything quickly was a “waste� of her time. It was difficult to regain my son’s trust or for him to even believe me when I told him that I did not know what was happening, that no one called me. He struggled through junior high, and was looking forward to high school. He was doing fine until he got one teacher who was the same as the 6th grade one. That’s when he entered the ‘shut down�. He’d rather avoid homework or school altogether! His spirit has been broken by someone who didn’t want to take a couple of minutes to make sure everyone understood the lesson. What makes me really sad is how he adopted the attitude that if he falls even a little behind or fails one test, then its to heck with that class --period. He doesn’t think there’s a point to trying to fix the grade once he’s already done badly. This leads to an avalanche of scholastic problems. There should be some sort of discipline for teachers who cause this kind of life altering change of esteem."
"I can so relate to this. My daughter who is 12,(and sometimes my son who is almost 14)can be explained something (Math mostly) and one minute they get it and the next it's like they've gone backwards a few years, and no way I can try to explain it works. This adds to my frustration and, I'm sorry to say, resentment, which adds more stress to the child. I think I paralyze my kid's abilities when I'm stressing them. I hate that I do that."
"Thank you for posting this article. My 9 year old son often says ' I hate school '. He will be in grade 4 this coming june 2010. Oftentimes he reads a book while teacher is discussing a lesson. He doesn't copy the writings on the board.He has a tendency to miss quizzes because he hates copying. He complains school is boring. He goes to a traditional school and he came from a progressive school. With this article it will help me with him and my pupils as well. I hope to received more articles and also one which concerns children with autism spectrum disorder since at present I teach these children. "
"we need 17 year old son wants to finish high s chool but feels overwhelmed by the attitude around his IEP needs."
"i have always taught my 13 yr old son was unique but now i see there is a few kids in the same position i am wondering 'what can we all do to help our kids? i dont think a lot of people try to understand kids and that's where the prblem start, all of this post and topic is my thought everyday. each post here relate to my son and i situation. thanks to each and everyone for sharing i do wish all our kids the best that they deserves, and the help we long for. once again thanks for sharing. "
"My child shut down this year because of the homework temperature. Additionally, my husband and I separated which caused the homework climate to escalate. Does anyone know how to reverse these effects. I was extremely disappointed when he only scored in the 70th percentile on his first standardized test. I am glad to know that some of the parents are experiencing the same thing, but what to do is the problem. "
"My son is in 6th grade. He has shut down since 2nd grade. Bright child, great test taker, just doesnt want the responsibility of homework and dead lines. What doe a parent do?"
"a truely wonderful article .it seems to address my sons present situation ,i feel relived that atleast there exists an understanding of what i am experiencing as a parent.thank you for the tips."
"My daughter is a rising 11th grader. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder with ADHD and Anxiety. She has been in Special Education since 3rd grade. Currrently, she is on 2nd grade math and 4th grade reading skills. The IEP team now is talking about the necessity to remain in school longer than age 18 in order to receive a diploma. My daughter has decided this is not an option for her. Do you have any suggestions as to how to encourage my daughter to complete her high school education? Thank you."
"Thanks for sharing this. I though I was the onlyone experiencing having a bright son becoming 'a lazy' preteen and I was cluless that others are going through the same.... "
"Beware of boredom disguised as difficulty. There are plenty of kids capable of working above grade level, but lots of schools can't or won't accommodate. "
"Ahh, the Lego Kid. It is worth checking out info about visual spatial learners. There are websites devoted to this type of learner. Most school systems do not embrace this style of learner. Once I figured out that my 2d grader was a visual spatial learner, I have been changing how his lessons are being presented. He hates to write. It even looks painful to watch him. But he'll design and build you an elaborate cat self-feeder, and has understood electrical circuits since he was 6. And, as most of the comments reflect...up to 85% of gifted children are visual spatial learners! Rote memorization almost kills them. Show them how it works, and they remember it. Drill it into them, and they turn off. Listening to the drone of a teacher in front of a classroom can be excruciating. Figure out what kind of learner your child is, then go from there. "
" My son is in the 9th grade. He completes his homework but he is not passing his test which count for 60-75 percent of his grade. He is in on fo the best schools academically. He is a well behaved child, but he is not passing test."
"I agree with many of the previous posters that with the 'no child left behind act' the teachers spend a great deal of their time with the failing and the misbehaved ones. The gifted get left behind. That combined with a teacher who thinks she is great but doesn't even offer to help the gifted child or ask for help from the gifted teacher, to challenge & stimulate this child more. We also do not have a good counselor or Principle. Also, a gifted child is wasting time if they are spending a lot of time organizing the class room, etc. Our 9 year old, in 4th grade, loves everything about school, does all of her work on time, loves homework, gets to it right away, is always an 'A' Honor Roll student, has gifted class one day a week and is busy after school with dance classes and private piano.. She enters things at school that she wants to, like spelling bees and is Vice President of a 4H club. She has always been an up beat kid about school and excited to go every day. This ye! ar made a difference with this teacher. Our daughter always runs out of work in the middle of the day. The gifted teacher and I work with her, create a folder of things to keep her stimulated. She even takes books to class. But, this teacher will tell her to put it away. When that happens, she tells me, I relay it to the Gifted teacher and then supervisors have to remind the teacher that if she doesn't have time to spend with our daughter then leave her be with the work we created for her. We also get lots of web sites from our gifted teacher to look up things at home and I buy our daughter challenging books from Barnes & Noble. My problem is my daughters attitude is slipping. She counts the days until summer now. She asks if she can stay home. She said she can't wait to get out of this school and have a different teacher. She asked me to home school her too. This saddens me. It's hard to keep her upbeat now. We just hope that with the closing of the middle school here and that she will be moved back to the elementary, that next year will be a new and fresh start and a better year. (4th graders were moved to the middle school this year with 5th & 6th graders). K thru 6th will be in the elementary school starting this fall - the 2010 - 2011 year. 7th and up at the high school. My problem with this is over crowding. If, the new year doesn't work out, we will figure out something else. (We are also researching other states to move to). I agree a child should be tested to see if they can skip a grade (our daughter did) but socially I wouldn't want my child mixed in with kids too old for her.. They learn enough garbage or about life too early as it is. It won't matter much for a while but it will by the time they hit middle school. Also, just because a child is gifted he/she may not be socially experienced and I would worry about bullying. (We dealt with that too in 2nd grade. I taught our daughter to speak up and that she has rights and kept calling meetings with the Principle and any teachers involved. Lots of work to teach her. Thank fully we had a caring and concerned principle and counselor in the elementary school who dealt with each incident right away.. But, it took our daughter a good two years to speak up and report anything). "
"Dr. Selznick has hit the nail on the head in his assessment of the 'Shut Down Learner' We frequently provide the intervention when a student reaches this point in their academic experience. Parents come in stressed and worried, when kids are suffering from sinking grades and low self-esteem. Thier relationships are beginning to suffer. At our center, we assess the student's Reading and Comprehension first to be certain this is not the core issue of the difficulties, then we proceed with the appropriate intervention for each student. It is so nice to see the happiness that occurs when grades go up, self- esteem returns, and families can focus on other parts of their lives. "
"This article describes my son to a 'T.' It gives me hope that there might be something we can do to help him through the rest of high school."
"Clearly, based on the volume of responses to this article, families are seriously struggling with the school experience. I believe schools need to change the way they treat our children. Meanwhile, it is up to parents to do what their children need. We need to re-set our priorities. Children must come first. We trust our children to schools and it is not working. Each family should make choices and find what works for their children. Schools are responsible for many of the problems we have in our culture. Children love to learn... why is this love of learning being squelched? 'schooled.' "
"I can relate to just about to all of whom commented. My son was an honor student during elementary school up til about 4th grade. Shortly after he began exhibiting different behaviors that was totally out of the ordinary. He was typically a happy go lucky kid, easy going, playful. During high school, his sophomore year he was an honor student, from that point on he went downhill fast. He started showing disinterest, lack of motivation, not completing homework assignments, he would still attend school until he began getting suspensions, then just not wanting to go and some times did not. He eventually dropped out @ 18 went back @ 19 dropped out, went back, dropped out even now @ 20. I have tried everything, was very involved, tried cyberschool, charter school, nothing helped. Don't understand. He wants to go back but fears he would not complete. What can I do? Even @ this point I refuse to give up on my child, because, i know what he is capable of."
"My son still takes care of all his responsibilities and does very well but as a gifted student is compeletey under-served. With budget difficulties gifted services were the first to be cut and school has become a slow and pointless torture to endure instead of a place to learn. How can we advocate to make services available? Are there any laws that give gifted students the right to be challenged? I would love to home-school but I can't afford to stay home, and my son wants to be with other kids and do sports. He gets fed up and says stuff like 'Can I just stay home until 10th grade? Then maybe school will be interesting again.' At the end of the day there just doesn't seem to be many options for him."
"My child learned to read by himself, he is so smart, and absorb in his brain everythig, but this year his going to fail , this information that is writing in this email happen to him, i want to help him, what i can do?"
"Thanks for the article. It's so important for parents to take the initiative to be aware of how their child learns and pinpoint any difficulties they experience. Schools generally are resistent to identify issues due to their budgetary constraints. Document Document Document your concerns to the school so you have something to reference later on if problems persist/get worse. If you can reveal a pattern then the school has a responsibility to test for 'suspected disabilties'. "
"My neice is going to be 17 and she is definitely a shut-down learner. it started when she was about 13. The only issue with her is that she is a brilliant writer, she was presented with an opportuntity to travel to Istanbul for space camp and all of a sudden the grades improved, then came high school and it's been down hill ever sense. She doesn't go out with friends, she stays in the house, pretends to do homework but is failing miserably in school. My sister is a single parent and doesn't know what to do. it's almost too late. Any suggestions."
"My son is exhibiting many of these symptoms, and they have been building for several years, but are much worse since his Dad deployed a few months ago. I'm am seriously considering moving him to a private Christian school next year, rather than have him start middle school with these types of attitudes. I think part of the problem at this age group is boredom for the brighter kids, part of it is just the age and the beginnings of hormones, but I really don't want to leave his future to chance and the public school system. "
"My son is 16 is going through the same situation you call it shut-down learner, I never heard of this but I checked all the bullets, he wanted to drop school and refused to attend, doctors tested for ADHD he is now takind medication and back to school, but the school does not understand and keeps demanding and making pressure he is overwhelmed, It could get unbearable for a teen. Please tell me what to do"
"I was diagnosed as gifted in elementary school as well and by High School started to become 'bored' with school. I was active in school clubs and cheerleading so I can't say I was disengaged completely in school, just when it came time to do homework. I was always great in math and knew I would pass without much effort so I did just that. I found ways to remove myself from classes as much as I could. I signed up for study hall to avoid classes and eventually ended up staying home for the first 2 hours of the day during those study hours. But what is was for me was the fact that I wasn't being challenged enough in the things I was interested in. I didn't see how everything was related to each other and how they would apply to the future, practically. I asked a few collegues at work to describe their best day at work and here were two reponses that I feel might help some of the students suffering from disengagement.. 1. Got recognized by someone senior for completing something of value 2. Completed an important project or process improvement I believe creativity is key here. Give the students the creative space to apply what they love (ie video games, art, etc) to a project that provides practical application of their various subjects (math, history, english, geography, communications etc.) across the board. They might be more inclined to put forth the effort to learn those subjects and by default raise their grades. I believe some teachers are stagnent in their teaching and need to prepare students and teach students about life after school and the various professions the lesson plan applies too. They should visit pros and cons of the different professions out there, give the students something to shoot for and let the students get excited about it. In high school your not looking to your future career your are just hoping to get the hell out of there!"
"We need to move from a grade/failure system to a skills mastery system. That kind of system allows each child to work at their own pace - fast or slow - and move on as they are ready. All children may then work together on common topics at their own capabilities."
"When discussing Academic discouragement you forgot the teacher. My son shutdown in third grade was because of a teacher's attitude and behavior. This teachers' way of controlling the classroom was busy work, of which he could not complete as fast as she wanted him. His handwriting was not good because of hand eye coordination disability that caused him to write slower than the other student, which the teacher refused to address. If they had put him on the computer for the writing assignment (which we did at home) he did well. The teacher had only 20 to 22 students in her class. The teacher did not want to deal with a child that had a physical problem but extremely bright. On my son's side of the problem, he became discouraged and frustrated with not being able to write fast enough for the teacher so she could read the writing. If he wrote fast the teacher would complain that she could not read the writing. My son's reading level was at the six grade level in the first grade. We found it interesting that his second grade teacher thought he was only looking at the pictures in books for 8th graders. When this teacher asked him if he was looking at the pictures and he told her no, she had him read the book to her. She was amazed that he could read at that level, in second grade, and found that his comprehension was extemely good. The third grade teacher affect my son's academic education from that moment making him feel he was dumb and stupid (found out later that the teacher called him stupid). The irony of the situation was when they tested him he always tested in the 1st or second highest in his class. In fact the teacher, same third grade teacher, accused him of cheating in one test, but could not prove that he cheating because no one sitting next to him. In one test, 5th grade, he had the highest test score in the school district for his grade. I have found, at times, that the educational system and teachers are looking for easy outs, especially for the unusal student, instead of the well being of the students. We the parents need to keep on top of the education system and monitor our child's progress, especially in the elementary grades. I feel that the first 4 years in school are the most important with regrad to skills of reading, writting, and math. Watch for problems with reading, writing, and math because the student may need your intervention, especially in the math (teachers seem to be weak in this area). "
"So many 'my kid is so bright and is only shutting down because he/she is bored' comments! As a parent of a highly gifted child and a teacher of children at all levels, from kids with severe learning disabilities to highly gifted ones, I see far too many parents who fall back on this one (and they're seldom the parents of the most gifted kids in class). It's certainly easier and more gratifying to believe that your child's only 'problem' is that he or she is just so gosh darn brilliant, but the fact of the matter is, if your kid is shutting down, your child needs to learn coping skills. Your gifted child is not going to spend the rest of his or her life surrounded by equally gifted peers, in the gifted-person's job with the gifted-person's boss, in the gifted-person's environment where someone other than your kid is making sure that every moment of the day is stimulating and fascinating. We all need to develop inner resources so that we can be curious and engaged no matt! er what we're doing, learn to buckle down and do tasks that bore us, and accept the fact that every moment of our lives is not going to be entertaining. Yes, gifted kids need teachers who know how to teach them, and they need assignments that challenge them. But school (and life) aren't set up to fascinate every single person at every single moment, and we all need to figure out how to deal with it without shutting down. Don't encourage the 'I'm bored, so I'm acting up/not doing homework/not doing my classwork' attitude--it's a very unattractive attitude in a kid, and it will be even more off-putting when your kid's an adult."
"My student, who is now high school aged, began talking about how much she could be doing if not stuck in school when she was in second grade. She is now un-schooling or healing from school. She, too is gifted, and found the pace of school slow and her needs going unmet. She functions at a deeper level and does best with more mature peers as she detests the 'drama' in school. Read John Holt on Un-Schooling. He talks about LEARNING rather than SCHOOLING. "